IAEA at UN Conference: Science and Partnerships Crucial to Combating Marine Plastic Pollution

Published on: 29 June 2022 04:37 PM
by KnowESG

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that at least 14 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean annually. This plastic makes up about 80% of marine waste that marine organisms ingest.

Marine plastic pollution is a global concern, and by 2025, the ocean will contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish, according to forecasts

There may be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi stated that this environmental crisis transcends national boundaries and consequently necessitates a truly global partnership that crosses across countries and organisations.

Mr Grossi said at a side event organised at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal:

"Plastic pollution is one of the major environmental challenges of this century and greatly affects land, waterways, and oceans. No country can adequately address this challenge alone. Now is the time to commit to a more enhanced global approach against plastic pollution that includes joint action and decision-making based on the latest and most innovative science available.”

Mr Grossi highlighted the IAEA's programme, Nuclear Technology for Controlling Plastic Pollution (NUTEC Plastics), launched last year and noted nuclear uses might be beneficial on both land and sea. 

NUTEC Plastics is committed to assisting nations in utilising various nuclear techniques to provide scientific evidence to characterise and assess marine microplastic pollution, as well as demonstrating the use of ionising radiation in plastic recycling by converting plastic waste into reusable resources.

“Nuclear techniques can help us assess and understand the dimension of our marine plastic pollution problem, including identifying the nature and the amount of plastic waste floating in the ocean,” Mr Gossi said. “Nuclear can also play a role in reducing the amount of plastic that lands in the ocean: recycling through radiation techniques will allow us to produce materials that can be used in other ways.”

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.1 asks for preventing and significantly decreasing marine pollution of all types, especially from land-based activities, by 2025. It includes marine debris and nutrient pollution.

The IAEA, in collaboration with the Circulate Initiative and the Incubation Network, produced the side event titled "Addressing Marine Plastic Pollution: How International Cooperation and Partnerships across Science and Technology Can Build Capacity and Lead to System Innovation."

It brought together country representatives, international and non-governmental organisations, funding agencies, and prominent scientists to debate how to form global cooperation and develop creative solutions based on research to combat marine plastic waste.

Kwaku Afriyie, Ghana’s Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, said:

"Global and regional partnerships are key to addressing marine plastic pollution. As inhabitants of Earth, we need to explore new technologies for tackling this issue, particularly nuclear technologies."

Ghana, according to the Minister, was one of the first countries to collaborate with the IAEA at the establishment of NUTEC Plastics and has benefited substantially from IAEA technical cooperation support in a wide range of peaceful nuclear uses.

Kristin Hughes, Director of the Global Plastic Action Partnership and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum, said: "Governments should actively explore innovative financing solutions, prop up investment in waste management, research and development on product design, and technical capacity building."

Alvaro Morales Ramirez, Director of the Research Center for Ocean Sciences and Limnology (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica; Simon Baldwin, Global Head of Circularity at SecondMuse; and Ellen Martin, Chief Impact Officer of Circulate Capital and Director of impact and Insights at the Circulate Initiative, were the other speakers at the side event.

Source: IAEA

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